Skrillex and Diplo,
Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü
Before April 2013, no one knew what the hell a Jack Ü was. When Diplo announced it as the name he and Skrillex were using while working together, the EDM Internets exploded in euphoric wonderment, trying to wrap their heads around the myriad possibilities this group contained. These guys represented two-thirds of America's EDM trinity (we see you, A-Trak), and were forever ahead of the curve when it came to producing with the right sounds and selecting the right talent. They were writing the future of dance music—and music in general.
It makes sense then that what we’re seeing and hearing with Jack Ü is the next phase of EDM. This project shows us exactly what the genre is capable of and how much of an impact it has had on the sound of music in all corners of the globe. It lays the blueprint for how EDM producers need to proceed if they're trying to "Take Ü There."
It's intriguing, though not surprising, that these two were able to open their Gmail contacts and coordinate a rainbow coalition of collaborators. We're talking an album that features wannabe pop badboy Justin Bieber, a reinvigorated Missy Elliott, a most 2 Chainz-iest 2 Chainz, and dancehall don Bunji Garlin. While Diplo's no stranger to working with a who's who of artists, the majority of his past collabs have involved him either tailoring his sound to fit their zone or bringing acts into the quirky dancehall world in which Major Lazer operates. And while Jack Ü is varied in sound, it is more focused on helping these acts find the grey area that lies between EDM's brightly colored confines and pop music's stiffly structured songs. The results? More excellent than one might imagine...or would want to give these two credit for.
Hell, they got people saying that a Justin Bieber song slaps, which isn't wrong. Bieber's no stranger to working with Diplo, but his Jack Ü feature, "Where Are Ü Now," finds him writing what could be a note to anyone—or, ahem, Selena Gomez—who might have left him during his turbulent 2014, longing for someone who could comfort him in his time of need. The beauty is that instead of Bieber being the main dish, he's more the icing on the cake, setting a somber tone that leads into the hypnotic, emotive track. 2 Chainz shines on the long-awaited "Febreze," which blends the 808-drenched trap sounds with a boastful, glorious trunk rattler. Elsewhere, AlunaGeorge helps provide one of the album's standouts with "To Ü." If you want a perfect blend of beautiful loops, soul-piercing vocals, gut-punching bass, and unforgettable melodies, you just need to keep this cut on repeat.
Does the project have its negatives? Sure. It's hard to call something an album when its runtime is only 36 minutes long, especially when two of those minutes is a trippy, beat-less intro, and the last track is a bonus remix featuring Missy Elliott. The album's lead single, "Take Ü There," has been with us for the better part of six-plus months, and aside from "To Ü," the rest of the tracks don't ascend to those heights. Truth be told, though, those negatives can be chalked up to old thinking when it comes to deciphering music.
Think about it: Electronic music albums are not in short supply. A number of producers are already lighting up 2015 with some intriguing longplayers, but many are from artists who are considered more underground. What's more, the majority of recent mainstream EDM albums have been less than desirable. Has anyone given the recent LPs from Hardwell, Tiesto, and Afrojack a second or third listen since their release? Many of those projects showed artists merely treading water instead of pushing things forward. Skrillex and Diplo—who are, for a lack of better words, nerds—work tirelessly to be progressive. They're fans of numerous genres of music, and are damn good at combing them, mashing up styles, and making things stick.
In the face of all of these cultures converging, we need heads like Skrillex and Diplo: DJs who understand how diverse sounds fit together.
Ever since the rise of the MP3 (and more importantly, iTunes culture), fans have consumed music that's not bound to one particular sound or style. You have people who turn up to a Chief Keef track one moment, then Alabama Shakes the next, followed by Disclosure or Katy Perry. In the face of all of these cultures converging, we need heads like Skrillex and Diplo: DJs who understand how diverse sounds fit together. Jack Ü is about having fun, and showcases Skrillex and Diplo's idea of fun via a plethora of interesting soundscapes, featuring people they fuck with on professional and personal levels. It's why you'll get Kiesza or Aluna weaving emo tapestries over bombastic rhythms one minute, then a producer like Montréal's Snails being able to go ham on bangers like "Holla Out."
While Skrillex was able to highlight just how multifaceted his sound really is on his first official album, 2014's Recess, and Diplo is forever proving that he's a musical chameleon, Jack Ü feels like the best representation of the joys of being a DJ/producer in 2015. Jack Ü is their mixtape to global music as they see it. Their influences, multiplied by the influence of their friends, with turn up and love and affection sprinkled in for added flavor. The end result is a love letter to the world of feels, and a great escape for heads looking to let their freak flag fly.